Posts Tagged ‘1950s’

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Books I failed out of last week

January 11, 2016

Four and Twenty Beds, by Nancy Casteel Vogel.

I kind of wanted someone to read this for me so that I didn’t have to, but eventually I decided I didn’t care that much. It’s from the fifties and it’s about a Californian couple who, with their two children, move to a small town to run a motel. I stopped reading just after they took possession of the motel, figuring that at worst there was going to be an endless series of uncomfortable disasters and at best I was going to continue not finding the book particularly funny.

Good References, by E.J. Rath.

So, like. 1921. Stenographer can’t get a job because she has no references. Ends up taking a job under another girl’s name, as social secretary to a young man who has no interest in society. What could be more fun than that? Well, almost anything, as it turns out. The young man is profoundly unsympathetic, and the friend posing as his valet is worse. Everyone is lying to his aunt, and she ended up being the only person I had any sympathy for. I have very little patience for books about people getting themselves in increasingly worse scrapes by lying, and I got through exactly four chapters before getting fed up.

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Cracker Barrel Troubleshooter

January 5, 2016

So, here’s a fun book.

Cracker Barrel Troubleshooter, by Jim Kjelgaard, is about Bill Rawls, a college student whose guardian — his uncle — dies after having frittered away Bill’s fortune. All that’s left is a country store in a tiny former lumber town called Elk Shanty. Bill could probably work his way through the rest of his college course, but this is, as I said, a Fun Book, so he decides to check out Elk Shanty instead. He finds:

  • a pretty girl.
  • a funny dog.
  • a population not capable of supporting a store.
  • a burly local youth who inexplicably hates him.
  • lots of food. Like, so much.
  • good fishing.

He decides, for whatever reason — the girl and repeated blows to the head are factors, I think — to stay and attempt to make a go of the store, which is, after all, all he’s got. This, for me, is the really fun part. I mean, sure, the fishing is made to sound reasonably exciting, and so is the eventual big fist fight, but for me the bit where Bill has to convince a local wholesaler to extend his credit is better.

And, I mean, this is a book for teenage boys, so everything is simplified, but Kjelgaard lets Bill make mistakes and give you enough material to understand them. Making the store a success usually looks achievable, but never easy. Also the food sounds very appealing, although I’ve always found it difficult to imagine people consuming pie in the quantities they do in old books.

Anyway, I enjoyed this a lot. I can’t imagine any of Kjelgaard’s other books will feel quite as specifically geared towards me — I’d happily subsist on a diet of books about people doing good things with unexpected inheritances — but I think I’m going to have to check a few out anyway.

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The Swimming Pool

August 26, 2013

So, obviously I don’t review things that are still under copyright very often, but MysteriousPress.com and Open Road Media have put out a whole slew of Mary Roberts Rinehart mysteries as ebooks, and I know for a fact I’m not the only one who’s run out of Rineharts to read at Project Gutenberg.

Open Road very kindly sent me an ebook of The Swimming Pool for review, and it’s kind of great, in a very specific, Rinehart during the ’40s and ’50s kind of way. There’s a specific formula you don’t get in her earlier mysteries, where the heroine is the youngest daughter of an old family, usually one whose lifestyle has changed dramatically over the last few decades. She’s usually in her late twenties, and when a man shows up to investigate whatever the mystery is, he’s also her love interest. The closest public domain example I can think of is Where There’s a Will — which I’ve never reviewed, but which is kind of similar to When a Man Marries in tone, but slightly less awesome.

Anyway, considered on its own merits, The Swimming Pool is pretty good. The heroine is Lois Maynard, and yes, she’s in her late twenties, and she’s the youngest daughter of the family, and they’ve definitely seen better times. There’s even a domineering mother, although she’s dead by the time the story begins. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Gauntlet

June 4, 2011

I while ago Eleanor recommended Ronald Welch’s Carey family series, which follows various Careys as they participate in pretty much every major conflict England’s been involved in in the last thousand years. We have similar taste in historical adventure novels, so I had pretty high hopes for Welch, and Knight Crusader, the first Carey book, was enormously fun — both bloodier and more educational than I expected. But the next Welch book in the New York Public Library’s collection takes place several hundred years later, and I get kind of weird about reading series in order, so now I’m just hoping to randomly stumble across the next book somewhere.

But the NYPL also had another Welch book, written shortly before Knight Crusader. It’s called The Gauntlet, and it’s a timeslip novel in which a young boy spending a vacation in Wales picks up a metal gauntlet and finds himself in the middle ages, where he is taken for the son of the local Norman family. It’s even more intensely educational than Knight Crusader, but that’s sort of what timeslip novels are for most of the time: you get to listen in on the protagonist getting everything explained to them.  And Welch knows his stuff, as far as I can tell.

It’s sort of exactly what you would expect of a children’s historical novel written in the fifties, and I mean that in a good way. It’s not the most emotionally engaging book, but it doesn’t need to be. And Welch is one of those writers who knows how to give you as much revenge as you want without giving you so much that you wish you hadn’t wanted it in the first place, although that might be a matter of opinion. I’m not sure how my thirst for revenge on fictional characters stacks up against other people’s.

Anyway, a pretty good book.

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Top 10 Underappreciated Children’s Books 2/3

May 17, 2011

Here’s part two. You may notice that the formatting is unbelieveably horrible. I tried to fix it, but I’ve given up now.

Part 1/3

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Top 10 Underappreciated Children’s Books 1/3

May 6, 2011

Okay, so the thing about this list? It’s going to be incredibly subjective. I’ve limited it to books I own, and to books I first read when I was the appropriate age for them. So, a) there are things that I haven’t included because I haven’t read them since I was in sixth grade, and I’ve never been able to track them down, and b) these are the books I grew up on, and my love for them isn’t always rational. I mean, I’m trying — Patty’s Summer Days isn’t on here because I know that not many people really go for that sort of thing. And there are books I loved as much as these that aren’t under-appreciated by any definition. I would like to note, however, that Little Women is not one of them. It is over-appreciated, and — okay, I can’t say I don’t like it at all. But I don’t like it very much, and I have lots of unpopular opinions about it. My best-loved Louisa May Alcott book is and always will be An Old-Fashioned Girl.

Anyway. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Snobbery with Violence

October 26, 2010

I ordered Snobbery with Violence, by Colin Watson, on the recommendation of Cristiane, and on the whole I liked it, but I do have some reservations. Well, a  lot.

Snobbery with Violence is a discussion of some of the most popular authors of crime fiction between, approximately, World War I and the 1960s, when the book was written. Watson’s premise is that an era’s most popular fiction tells you the most about its reading public, and obviously that’s a thesis I can get behind. What bothered me was that most of the snobbery involved seemed to come from the author. Colin Watson may think he likes mystery novels, but my impression is that he hates them and the people that read them. Read the rest of this entry ?